Culture is NOT the source of conflict

I know it has been a couple days since the end of the Summer Peacebuilding Program 2015, but I thought I’d share a topic that has had me thinking the last few days. The final week of SPP at Mount Madonna was full of so many memorable moments and class sessions. A session that has stuck with me was about culture. I had originally not thought too much about the topic of culture as it relates to peacebuilding other than “cultural differences cause conflict.” I soon realized the true role of culture in conflict.

All of us are quick to say that a culture clash is what caused a conflict. During the session, we first took a look at what culture really is. It is in many ways so many things. In a nutshell I came to view culture as something natural, desired, learned and simply a lens through which one views the world (and conflict). In essence, culture is NOT the source of conflict. The lens through which we see the world helps us make sense and organize things we see into an organized manner that fits according to our cultural lens. It is how we make meaning of things. For this reason culture is so much more than what we see on the surface (clothing, language, symbols, rituals, etc.). Culture is always in flux. This reminds me of learning early on in SPP that conflict is change. Viewing conflict as simply an opportunity for change and not something negative or violent, this seems to me that culture and conflict go hand in hand. Conflict is the result of fluxing culture. Professor Iyer stated it well that conflict rides on culture, and culture is the vehicle. All cultures are pointing to the same thing–making sense of the world.

Now in my role as a peacebuilder this helps me make sense of the topic of culture and conflict. In dealing with a cultural conflict, communication is so important. Someone’s culture is just their approach to meaning making. We take on roles in our culture. We must get past the roles and to the person. Going deeper in understanding the intentions of a person. Something I see as pure violence can be of utmost importance and significant meaning to another.

Something to remember for all of us since as long as we simply see culture as the source of conflict.